Thursday, May 3, 2012


Contributed by Ahsan Asif

I write this post after just seeing another one of Telenor’s ‘Khamoshi ka boycott’ commercial, the one in which the girl starts screaming in the middle of the street and the ‘gundas’ get a message from the society that because of their actions, society is falling into disrepute. Apart from finding this ad hilariously na├»ve, I fail to register any depth in this and other commercials that are aimed at ‘liberating’ the youth. Telenor wants to liberate the youth from injustice, Jazz liberates the youth through cheap calling rates. Sprite offers solutions for the youth’s problems in its ‘University of Freshology’ series. It seems that the ‘youth’ has replaced ‘customers’ at the bottom (or top, as you see it) of any corporation’s hierarchy. However, instead of actually helping this nation’s youth, companies and advertisers have made them prisoners to the oldest and most important concept in economics: consumption.

But what lead to the emergence of this new priority? I have so far identified only one factor, an idea that was intended for a lot of good, but has now commercialized into one of Pakistan’s biggest advertisement scams: youth empowerment programs. In the previous decade, we have seen a meteoric rise in the number of events that aim at youth empowerment and personal growth. Institutes like the IBA, LUMS, SZABIST, CBM, all had identified the potential these programs had, and this led to the creation of YLES (at LUMS) AIMS, IBLC, etc (at IBA) and the emergence of MUNs (Model United Nations) at almost every reputable institute. These programs provided the youth with a viable platform to showcase their talents, get valuable experience and exposure, and deal with situations they would face in their professional lives.

TV channels and companies, however, saw this as a feasible business opportunity. They then took the concept and twisted it until it suited their own needs. The confident, mature and conscious youth these programs intended to create were then turned into a liberated, careless bunch of spoiled brats whose daily mantra was to consume. Consume cell phone subscriptions, consume soft drinks and consume *product name here*, just because they wanted to. They were liberated to consume. And that is empowerment, isn’t it? The right to consume commodities, maximize utility and be happy?

No. Empowerment doesn’t mean just consumption. It defines a state much more powerful than that. True empowerment is when we become mature enough to stand up for what is right. It involves enlightenment as to how things are and how they should be. True empowerment is when we are conscious of our actions, and the state of those who are less fortunate. True empowerment instills in us a drive to make the world an inclusive, sustainable place for ourselves and future generations.

The next time you see an ad which aims at empowering you (by making you buy a product), ask yourself whether it really does empower you. Truly empowered people, and I talk here of people our age, don’t get fooled easily, and it’s gonna take a lot more than a couple of lazy snobs trying to be cool on the telly to make them believe in this pseudo empowerment.


Anonymous said...

Brilliantly put. Consumption actually inhibits empowerment and fosters passiveness. Its about time we wake up to that.

mkb07 said...

so true. empowerment should be a not be commercialized.

J Hameed said...

great writeup.Way to go.

sehar said...

"True empowerment is when we are conscious of our actions, and the state of those who are less fortunate."

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